Frank Brandon’s Column

Generous gestures have eased loneliness for some during Covid

Frank…on inspired responses to the pandemic; the onward march of cookery and gardening programmes on TV; and the Government washes its hands of dishwasher repairs…


It’s hard to credit that it’s almost a year since we had our first Covid lockdown, and if we are to believe last weekend’s news there are now loads of new doubts about the effectiveness of some of the vaccines – and we are being warned that they may not be about to bring an end to the pandemic.

However, regardless of what happens in the future, there can be no doubt that the coronavirus brought out the good in loads of people all around the globe. Nobody arguably did more to lift the spirits of their country than 100-year-old Tom Moore, who walked 100 laps of his garden with the intention of raising 1000 pounds for the NHS, before actually raising more than 32 million pounds. Sadly he passed away last week, ironically from the dreaded virus, but his contribution to the Covid fight in the UK will never be forgotten.

Over here, in April of last year former Mayo footballer David Brady started an initiative in which county footballers or ex-players would phone some of their supporters and chat to them. Many of those who received the calls were lonely and alone, and the contact from their football heroes was just so welcome and therapeutic.

Recently, seventy of our top country singers and performers, at the behest of Trudi Lalor, have come on board to follow suit and randomly call some of their most faithful fans. Already I have seen that Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, Robert Mizzell and others have phoned up some of their fans to chat with them. I have to say it’s a really good idea, so well done to all the country stars involved – especially considering they have been off the road for almost twelve months and have little or no income coming in.

It must be a huge shock and a great surprise to have one of your favourite stars at the end of the line, and I imagine it would make any country fan’s day. I just wonder is there any chance Lisa McHugh has my number?


Never too many cooks (or gardeners)…


It’s Saturday night, I have had a look at a bit of the Manchester United self-destruct exercise against Everton, paid a visit to The Masked Singer, and, now – shortly after 11 pm – I am heading for bed. I have to admit that it is hard to figure it all out. Not too long ago – up to March of 2020 – I would have been heading to the local for a few quiet pints and a bit of a chat, and the truth is I would be in no hurry at all to get to the comfort of my leaba.

And as I headed off to bed, my mind drifted back to my secondary school days, way back in the 1960s, and I started to think about the lads that I went to school with. I began to reflect on where they ended up (at least those whose life path I am aware of). Funny enough, nearly all of them went to university and ended up in big ‘high end’ jobs. It made me realise that, at that time, the main focus was on jobs like teaching, banking, engineering, and other so-called white collar jobs, while the trades were almost completely neglected.

Recently, as I wrote here previously, I find myself watching more television than I ever did before, and it seems to me that the two jobs to have nowadays are as a chef or a gardener. The number of chefs that appear on different programmes is extraordinary, including our own (Creggs-based) celebrity chef, Jeeny Maltese, and on every live show there is someone showing us how to serve up some amazing dishes. Every conceivable type of exotic meal is prepared, and we are always being told how simple and easy they are to make, conveniently overlooking the fact that they have the very best of kitchen equipment, all the ingredients at their fingertips, and the time to do it. It’s a bit different from working in a small kitchen with one blackened pan and a couple of saucepans with the bottoms burnt out of them, but obviously the public must love the celebrity chefs and it seems no show can do without them.

However, even the number of chefs pales into insignificance compared to the number of gardening programmes there are on the telly, with any amount of shows doing garden makeovers for people, with budgets ranging from the very modest to the absolutely mind-boggling. Back in the day when our own Diarmuid Gavin and the UK’s Alan Titchmarsh first made their tentative steps on our screens, I would safely say they never thought there would be so many to follow in their footsteps. The Rich Brothers, Monty Don and Charlie Dimmock are among the big names that currently appear on various gardening programmes, and as my wife Carol works in Ardcarne Garden Centre I find myself tuning in to most of them.

Up to a couple of years ago my only big gardening ‘achievement’ was to fail to successfully grow my daffodils. Now I can tell you what a rose is, and, at a push, even how to grow them. Back in school all those years ago, I don’t think we had any Career Guidance counsellors, but if we had, none of them told me to be either a chef or a gardener. What a pity. I could have been a TV star!


And finally…


Finally for this week, you may remember that a few weeks ago I told you about our immobilised  dishwasher, how we were at that time into our third week waiting for the engineer to come to fix it, and how I (but definitely not Carol) felt the appliance was not as important or as useful as people thought, and that we were (nearly) better off without one.

I have now found out that the Government shares my opinion, because the reason we are still without it – and haven’t had a call from the engineer – is that the powers that be have decreed that a journey to fix a dishwasher is not necessary, and therefore under this lockdown it is not allowed. Had it been the cooker – or anything to do with eating – they could have travelled, but – backing up my theory about its usefulness – the dishwasher does not qualify. Therefore, we have stocked up on the Fairy Liquid, got in loads of tea towels, and are ready for another few weeks, maybe even months, of washing our dishes by hand.

As a result, we are also following the advice of washing our hands several times a day, so it’s a win-win all round. There could be a slightly used, second-hand dishwasher (temporarily out of commission) for sale soon. Watch this space.